Biden’s environmental agenda creates regulatory whiplash for industry

As President Biden’s slate of Cabinet picks began to crystallize over the past several weeks, it became clear that climate initiatives are near the top of his agenda, eclipsed only perhaps by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Biden appears to be planning a whole-of-government environmental push that extends well beyond the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Interior and Energy departments.

Many of Biden’s choices who are expected to have the biggest impact on industry—Jennifer Granholm, Department of Energy; Michael Regan, Environmental Protection Agency; Deb Haaland, Department of the Interior; and Gina McCarthy, national climate adviser—have significant experience in the areas in which they’ve been chosen to serve.

That in itself could be problematic, says David Dismukes, executive director of LSU’s Center for Energy Studies. 

“The Biden administration will probably be more like Obama 2.0,” Dismukes says. “Under Obama, you’d be hard pressed to find a more activist period for the EPA—particularly as it relates to energy.”  

Not surprisingly, there’s been resistance to some of Biden’s picks. The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, for example, issued a statement strongly opposing the confirmation of Haaland, a New Mexico native, to lead the DOI. “Haaland has repeatedly demonstrated contempt towards our industry, especially regarding the need for a balanced approach to public land management,” says IPANM Executive Director Jim Winchester in the statement.

However, its regulatory inconsistency that presents a bigger problem for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. “The first order of business will be putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, winding everything back up that the Trump administration has unwound,” Dismukes says. “That’s going to feel like whiplash for a lot of people. They were going down one road with Obama, then it changed with Trump, and now they’re going back again.”

While this bipolar approach to regulation is unsettling, the larger players should be able to handle it since they’ve already made significant investments. This is particularly true in regard to methane emission reduction goals. By the time the Trump administration had rolled back the Obama rule that mandated a 45% reduction by 2025, many were well on their way to compliance.

Read the full feature from the latest edition of Business Report.